As far as a good winter salad recipe goes, nothing quite beats the wholesome combination of a hearty pasta and spiced roasted butternut pumpkin.
Pumpkin is delicious on its own whether it be stewed, roasted, mashed or in whatever form you’re accustomed to eating it. I love that you can also have it sweet or savoury, and can be used in all sorts of cuisines from curries to tempura.
Is Pumpkin A Fruit or Vegetable?
Pumpkins are fruits.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, a fruit is by definition, “the sweet and fleshy product of a tree or other plant that contains seeds and can be eaten as food.”
Pumpkins are filled with seeds, of which many of us eat and it grows on a vine.
I have to admit I didn’t know this until much later in life. So interesting isn’t it?
What Is the Difference Between Pumpkin and Squash?
Well, let’s make this super confusing for everyone.
Pumpkins and squash come from the same family Cucurbitaceae. And not only do they belong to the same family, they come from the same genus, genus Cucurbita. Some of the variations are so small that one would be forgiven for not being able to differentiate them.
When we think of pumpkin, we are immediately gravitated towards the large round orange pumpkins that are carved out for Halloween. This is not such a common practise in Australia but we get it.
So, I used to get so confused when we talked about the butternut variety and it wasn’t until recently did, I understand where this confusion stemmed from. In the US, the butternut variety is called butternut squash. In Australia, the very same fruit is called butternut pumpkin. They are one and the same thing. **Facepalm**
For us in Australia, we associate a squash with well, a squash! The likes of a yellow squash, zucchini or spaghetti squash. The watery, soft kind you know? Not the hard-fleshed fruits that sometimes you wonder how you can even cut through them!
Please tell me it wasn’t just me??
Why I Love Risoni with Spiced Roasted Butternut Pumpkin
It was that time of the year when the weather was getting colder and I had a craving for something hearty and filled with flavour. I gravitated towards a pasta, the kind of comfort food that’s a staple in our household. I found an open bag of risoni so I thought I’d finish it off.
On the weekend, we visited my partner’s parents for lunch. They live in the country about 3 hours away from us and every couple of months, we meet half way at a true-blue dinky di Aussie pub in the middle of nowhere. His Dad is an avid gardener and loves growing fruit, vegetables and herbs.
He was extremely proud of his new butternut pumpkin harvest and brought us a couple to try. We love getting organic home grown produce and I have to say we were super impressed!
I figured that the 2 would be a match made in heaven and knew that a little spice would elevate the risoni pasta recipe to the next level. I wanted a hint of heat so I decided to sprinkle a little paprika which I had brought home from my trip to Hungary.
The dried cranberries and currants give that added sweetness and the whole thing just satisfied my craving!
We had so much pumpkin leftover that we also made Roasted Spiced Pumpkin and Red Onion Salad and Roast Pumpkin Salad with Israeli Couscous and Apple.
How to Make Risoni with Spiced Roasted Butternut Pumpkin
How to Roast Butternut Pumpkin
Let’s begin with the component that takes the most work and the longest to cook. The butternut pumpkin aka butternut squash.
Remove the skin of the butternut pumpkin and then cut them into 2cm cubes. In a medium sized mixing bowl, add 1 tbsp of olive oil, ground cumin, ground coriander and paprika. Add some salt and pepper and then mix it well to ensure all the pumpkin is well coated.
Have the oven preheated at 200°C or 390°F. Place the coated butternut pumpkin on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Spread them out evenly and then place it in the oven for 20 minutes.
After that time, take the butternut pumpkin out and turn them over so the underside gets a good roasting too. We want a beautiful golden-brown consistency. Bake for a further 8 minutes.
Once they are done, set it aside to cool.
How to Prepare the Risoni and Peanuts
Whilst all that is going on, bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Add some salt and the risoni. Let it cook for about 8 minutes or until al dente and then run it under cool water. This will stop the pasta from continuing to cook away and ending up in a big mushy mess. Set it aside to dry.
Wash the coriander thoroughly and pat them dry. Roughly chop to yield ¼ cup.
Moving onto the crushed peanuts, just toast them on a fry pan for a couple of minutes to give it that lovely toasted flavour. You should be able to find crushed peanuts in your supermarket, just to save you from having to do it yourself. Set it aside to cool.
How to Assemble the Salad
Another reason I love this butternut squash salad so much is that there’s no dressing to make. The spiced roasted butternut pumpkin is all the flavour you need.
In a large mixing bowl, add the risoni, roasted butternut pumpkin, dried cranberries, dried currants, chopped coriander and toasted crushed peanuts together. Add 2 ½ tbsp of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and give it a gentle mix.
And that’s it! If you’re not sharing, scoop them out onto individual bowls and serve.
We adore this winter salad recipe and if you’re after some spiced goodness, this ticks all the boxes. This salad can be served warm, perfect for those cold blustery nights!
More Winter Salad Recipes:
- Vegan Wild Rice Salad with Puffed Quinoa and Dried Figs
- Artichoke and Potato Salad with Creme Fraiche
- Asian Pear Salad with Soba and Hot Smoked Salmon
- Pomegranate Cauliflower Salad with Chestnuts
- Roasted Beetroot Salad with Halloumi and Pomegranate Glaze
Easy Salad Dressing Recipes:
Risoni with Spiced Roasted Butternut Pumpkin
- Cut the pumpkin into small 2 cm cubes. In a medium mixing bowl, add 2 tbsp of olive oil, ground cumin, ground coriander and paprika. Season with salt and pepper and mix well to ensure the pumpkin is well coated.
- Line a sheet pan with baking paper. Spread out the butternut pumpkin evenly across the sheet pan and place in the oven at 200°C or 390°F for 20 minutes. Remove the sheet pan from the oven. Flip the pumpkin to expose the underside and bake for another 8 minutes. We are looking for a nice golden-brown colour.
- Bring a small saucepan of water to boil. Add salt. Pour in 2 cups of risoni and cook for about 8 minutes or until al dente. Remove from the heat and drain in a colander under cool running water to stop the cooking process. Set aside to dry.
- Chop the coriander to yield ¼ cup.
- On a small fry pan, dry toast the crushed peanuts for 2 minutes or until it turns a nice brown colour. Set aside to cool.
- In a large mixing bowl, add cooked risoni, roasted butternut pumpkin, dried cranberries, dried currants, chopped coriander and toasted crushed peanuts together.
- Pour in 2 tbsp of olive oil.
- Add salt and pepper.
- Stir the ingredients gently until it is evenly coated. Serve.
- You can replace the peanuts with almonds, hazelnuts, brazil nuts or macadamia.
- Ensure risoni is gluten free to make this butternut pumpkin or butternut squash salad recipe coeliac friendly.
- When flipping the pumpkin, be sure to be gentle with it as it can be squashed easily. Use a spoon or a spatula to help you turn the cubes of butternut pumpkin if you’re a little heavy handed and can’t use a pair of tongs.
- It keeps really well so you can certainly make it in advance or even be kept overnight. Great for packed work or school lunches the next day.